COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The US hascertified the first foreign Chief of Current Operations in its Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), a milestone that a top Air Force general said represents the growth of international cooperation on military space issues.

Lt. Gen. Jay Raymond, commander of STRATCOM's Joint Functional Component Command for Space, said the Canadian officer is now clear to run a shift at the JSpOC, putting him in charge of a team made up of US, UK, Australian and Canadian operators.

Shifts change every eight hours at the JSpOC, which tracks and identifies any man-made object in orbit.

"This is huge. This is going to help us in a whole host of ways," Raymond said Tuesday at the National Space Symposium.

After the speech, Raymond told Defense News that he hopes to certify more international officers to become Chief of Current Operations, expanding the program to the other nations involved in the center. But he noted that there is no one currently undergoing that process.

"I think it's a significant step," he said. "I don't want to overstate it, but I think it's a significant step."

The certification of the Canadian officer is part of a concerted effort by Raymond to emphasize increasing international partnerships. He noted that coalition operations are the rule, not the exception, in every domain except space.

"It's something we haven't had to do because its been a domain that has been a peaceful sanctuary," Raymond said. "That is not the case today. We have got to develop the partnerships with our allies. We can't do this alone."

[EMBED: http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/air-space/space/2015/04/13/interview-deborah-lee-james--air-force-space-ula-spacex-rd-180/25713835/ ]

Expanding international partnerships in space has been challenging in the past, due both to the vast technological advantage the US has had over allies and security concerns. But Raymond has some backing in his push for greater space partnerships.

Deborah Lee James, secretary of the Air Force, told Defense News that she wants to see more programs follow the model of the Wideband Global Satcom constellation, where international partners have helped fund the program.

"I would love to grow that formula," James said. "That has been very successful for us, so we'd love to see that approach grow. We're on the hunt for [other programs]."